How To Clean Your Lamp Shades

Keep shades dust-free and lamps shining bright with these easy cleaning tips.

Lamp shade

Sorella Glenn

You’ve sanitized every surface in your home, including the inside of your washing machine and oven. But, dust still lingers. What’s left to clean? The sneaky culprit may actually be your lamp shades, which gather dust and pet hair just as quickly as any other piece of furniture in the home. Not only is a layer of dust unsightly on lamp shades; it also inhibits the lamp’s light from brightening up your space to its full potential. No one wants a murky glow in their sitting room.

To best understand how to keep lamp shades clean, we turned to the experts at Sorella Glenn, a sister-run bespoke lamp shade business based in Charleston, South Carolina. Katy, a textile artist, sold lamps and shades alongside her mother—an antiques dealer—in Greenville. Her sister Gracen chose to pursue interior design. The siblings found that colorful, custom shades were a gap in the design market, and decided to combine their creativity with their love of Southern interiors to open Sorella Glenn. Patterned, playful lamp shades are the stars of the show. “A beautifully crafted shade is the added embellishment to a room,” Katy shares. “Lampshades carry fabulous design beyond just the upholstery, lamps, and pillows. Don’t forget about them!”

The dynamic sister-duo works with lamp shades of various materials (you can even visit their Lampshade Library on Market Street!), so Katy understands first-hand the importance of keeping shades clean. “Accumulated dust is not healthy, and it’s also not pretty,” she says. Cleaning your lamp shades regularly—as often as you dust your furniture, she says—keeps fabric bright. “Make lamp shades part of your regular housekeeping routine. Dust doesn’t choose where to land. If it’s on your side table, it’s on your lamp and lampshade, too!”

A light, once-a-week dusting can make a world of difference to any lamp in your home, whether tabletop, sconce, torchiere, swing-arm, or tripod. Ongoing maintenance can prevent the need to deep-clean shades and can even mitigate discoloration. But how do you clean a lamp shade? Hint: It’s not a lint roller, which can damage delicate shades by aggravating the fabric’s threads.

What To Know About Cleaning Lamp Shades

The first thing to consider is what your lamp shade is made of. There are all kinds of shades out there, and, chances are, you have a few different materials incorporated throughout your home. The most common ones are typically made of some kind of cloth, be it linen, burlap, silk, cotton, or polyester. But, eye-catching shades can be made out of almost anything—including faux leather, mica, microfiber, rattan, jute, and acrylic.

In fact, lamp shades seem much more complicated to clean than they really are. Don’t let intricately pleated fabric or a hand-painted design intimidate you—a few easy-to-find tools will eliminate dust in seconds.

How To Clean Pleated, Cloth, Rattan, Jute, Or Paper Lamp Shades

Katy suggests using a shade brush, which is made up of soft, natural bristles to brush away dust without damaging or scratching delicate fabrics.

  1. First, brush shades; vacuum the floor to remove any fallen debris second.
  2. Start from the top of the lamp shade, brushing gently along each pleat from top to bottom or in a vertical motion around the shade until it has been completely brushed. You’ll be surprised at just how effective this little tool can be.
  3. When you’re done with the shade brush, gently tap to loosen accumulated dust from bristles. If you're in a pinch, a clean, soft paint brush will also do the trick. Use a light touch in your dusting to avoid denting the shade!
lamp shade tool

Sorella Glenn

How To Clean Painted, Glass, Metal, Mica, Ceramic, Or Alternate Material Lamp Shades

For this type of shade, put down the shade brush and opt instead for a soft, lint-free cloth, such as microfiber. Start with a dry cloth on all materials to gently remove dust, wiping carefully. If you’re facing tricky smudges or fingerprints on a glass or ceramic shade, a lightly damp cloth can help remove unwanted marks, Katy says. Steer clear of harsh glass cleaners, tempting as they may be, to avoid unsightly streaks and unintentional damage to the shade’s structure.

How To Clean A Non-Fabric Lamp Shade

If you have a glass-shaded sconce in the kitchen or in another room, you may notice some build-up residue beyond the capacity of a damp cloth. For this deep-cleaning case, add a bit of white vinegar to your lint-free cloth and gently clean in circles until the residue is removed.

Should you remove the lamp shade to clean it?

No. It may seem easier to clean a lamp shade from all sides when you remove it from its metal lamp shade fitter, but it’s not necessary as long as you can gently apply even pressure when dusting. If you’re struggling to clean all the way around, remove the shade from its fitting every few dustings to make sure that you’re reaching every nook and cranny—especially with a pleated shade.

How To Clean A Lamp Shade In A Spot Prone To Moisture

In spots like a bathroom, screened-in porch, or lanai, you’ll notice that dust accumulates much more gradually than it does in other areas of the home. For these shades, light maintenance cleaning every few weeks will keep them looking fresh. Then, take the shades down once a year to give them a more thorough cleaning.

How To Clean A Cloth Lamp Shade With A Stain Or Spot

For spot treating, you'll want to use a clean, soft-bristle toothbrush (preferably with uncolored bristles). Dampen the toothbrush in a bit of warm, soapy water. Before applying to the exterior of the shade, it’s always a good idea to test a water-based cleaning method on a small, less-visible area to make sure that everything dries evenly. If no water spot remains, lightly buff away the stain with the toothbrush, absorbing any excess moisture with your lint-free cloth. Note: Be extra-cautious with delicate silk shades when spot-cleaning—test in an inconspicuous place before proceeding with lukewarm water. To avoid any discoloration or stain spots with silk lamp shades, you can always bring them in to a dry-cleaning professional.

Just as Katy and Gracen love “making a lamp sing with a new shade,” taking care of delicate shades and cleaning them regularly will ensure that your home remains a stylish, dust-free space to welcome to guests.

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